2014 is behind us and if there is one thing I have learned this year, itâ€™s that an economically slow year is when we have to work the hardest and the smartest. Everybody within the industry has been drawn thin and pressures have only been escalating. Even here at OVERDRIVE, 2014 has probably gone down as the year when we all contributed above and beyond our station. Juggling our lives between work, families and ourselves hasn’t been easy but in these adversities I have seen each and every one on the team shine. 2015 will bring with it its own set of challenges but, 2014 – what an interesting year it has been.
There were three critical highlights in 2014 that I thought were game-changing moments for the Indian automotive industry. The first of this was the Auto Expo which finally moved from Pragati Maidan to the Expo Centre in Greater Noida. The shift in venue was a high point especially since there were several unsuccessful attempts made in the past. But that change was overshadowed by something entirely different and unexpected. In 2012, when the Expo was held at Pragati Maidan, it was nothing short of a disaster. The 2012 Expo, ill managed and planned as it was, painted us as horrible organisers of what could have been a world class show. Then, in just two years, CII, SIAM and ACMA turned the Auto Expo around, making it a world class motor show by bringing in a whole new level of professionalism
. With the event moving location, it also brought in a new sense of discipline. Media days were sacrosanct, business days did just that – conducted business and when the work was done, there was a lot of fun to be had on the public days. In this way, things ran like clockwork – smoothly, efficiently and without missing a tick! After the debacle of 2012, we had redeemed ourselves. Not just that, fears that moving the venue to a new location like Greater Noida would fail to bring in crowds were totally unfounded. Lakhs came and saw what the Indian automotive industry had to offer in the coming years. I doubt the Auto Expo will ever go back to being how it was two years ago ever again.
The second highlight for me was Tata Motors when they launched the Zest. You see, the moment when Tata Motors launched the Nano may have been their biggest in the last decade. That car, however, also spelled the downfall of a company that had once seen better days. After the Nano failed to take off the way it was expected to, things began spiralling rapidly downhill for this once renowned manufacturer.
And not just with its cars, Tata Motors was facing difficulties in its commercial vehicle business as well. So when the Zest was introduced to India and it received rave reviews, a glimmer of hope sparked deep within Tata Motors. Today, I firmly believe the Zest has, in this decade, helped change the game for Tata Motors. It isnâ€™t the perfect car out there but it has gotten Tata Motors closer to that perfection than even they thought possible.
For a company as large and with as big an ego as Tata Motors, eating humble pie and accepting the fact that it wasnâ€™t top dog in this business anymore was a good start. From February 2014 when it first showed the Zest and Bolt and also revealed more plans for the future, balanced on solid foundation, the value of its stock has been consistently getting stronger.
The third and final highlight is one that I think brought a lot of shame and disrepute to India with respect to automotive safety. The entire Global NCAP fiasco blew up in our faces and for once Indian products were brought under the radar. Cars such as the Swift, Polo and even the Go attracted a lot of criticism for not offering the basic provisions for safety such as a crash structure and active and passive safety features such as airbags and ABS.
In the case of the Swift and Polo, the double standards maintained by Suzuki and Volkswagen between domestic markets and international or rather European ones were also criticised. Since these cars could offer state of the art safety features to Europeans, questioned were raised about these missing features in India. Several claims and subsequent statements were also directed towards the Datsun Go which was deemed highly dangerous as a product.
The sad part is that these cars were only conforming to Indian standards, which of course raises questions about these standards. The one good thing to come out of â€˜crashgateâ€™ is that manufacturers have begun looking at safety as a high priority item in the vehicles they offer to consumers.
Hopefully the future with regard to safety will be much brighter, especially once the new automotive roadmap is put into place. The new regulations in the forthcoming Motor Vehicles Act should hopefully provide commuters a safer environment than the one in which they exist presently. But this is India, things can change overnight – we can only cross our fingers and hope that 2015 will see better days.